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Nancy Pelosi Schooled on Populism at Oxford Union

Former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) recently had the opportunity to debate the proposition of whether populism is ‘a threat to democracy’ at the prestigious Oxford Union debating society at Oxford University.

Populist leaders distinguish themselves from their opponents by appealing to ordinary people who sense a growing distance between themselves and an elite ruling class. As an outspoken critic of America’s most recognizable populist Donald Trump, Pelosi has made it abundantly clear that she’s not a fan of populism.

In the Oxford Union debate, Pelosi resisted the urge to label populists “Nazis” and instead opted to define populism as, “ethno-nationalist populism, generated by an ethnic negativity to immigrants, people who are different from them and the rest.”

That terminology seems like a distinction without a difference.

The threat to democracy, according to Pelosi, can be summed up in how populism “blocks” American voters from making good, rational decisions because of what she refers to as “the three Gs.”


Pelosi’s full remarks for the proposition can be seen here.

Former Mumford & Sons lead guitarist Winston Marshall offered a decisive counterpoint to Pelosi’s claims and took the Congresswoman to task for her contempt for ordinary citizens.

Marshall noted the meanings of words have a tendency to change according to whomever is in power and that elites currently use the word “populism” as a way to show their contempt for ordinary people.

He reminded Pelosi that populism is not a threat to democracy, but rather that it is democracy.

And then Marshall got to work schooling the former House Speaker on populism and the growing gap between the elite and the public they claim to serve.


Pelosi interrupted Marshall several times, including when he compared the political violence of the George Floyd riots and the Jan 6 riot which Pelosi maintains was an insurrection.

In the end, the debate society voted that populism is a threat to democracy. Not entirely surprising considering the academic setting.

But observers still had the privilege of seeing an elite member of the U.S. ruling class, called out and unapologetically corrected, to her face, in public.

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Photo: UNITED STATES - MARCH 31: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conducts her weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on Thursday, March 31, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)